Pronunciation of Classical Latin

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Unlike the pronunciation of English, the pronunciation of Classical Latin follows exceptionless rules and is straightforward. The rules are as follows:

Consonants

  • c is always hard like the English 'k': IPA: /k/
  • ch is pronounced like the English 'k': IPA: /k/
  • g is always hard as in English 'go': IPA: /g/
  • j (only found at the beginning of a word, often written as an 'i' and always followed by a vowel) is pronounced like the English 'y' in 'yet': IPA: /j/
  • ng is pronounced like the English 'ng' in 'finger': IPA: /ŋg/
  • ph is pronounced like the English 'p': IPA: /p/
  • th is pronounced like the English 't': IPA: /t/
  • v is pronounced like the English 'w': IPA: /w/

The other consonants are pronounced as in English.

Vowels

  • a, when short, is pronounced like the 'a' in 'sat': IPA: /a/
  • a, when long, is pronounced like the 'a' in 'rather': IPA: /ɑː/
  • e, when short, is pronounced like the 'e' in 'red': IPA: /ɛ/
  • e, when long, is pronounced like the 'ay' in 'say': IPA: /e/
  • i, when short, is pronounced like the 'i' in 'bin': IPA: /ɪ/
  • i, when long, is pronounced like the 'ee' in 'reed': IPA: /iː/
  • o, when short, is pronounced like the 'o' in 'mock': IPA: /ɔ/
  • o, when long, is pronounced like the 'o' in 'phone': IPA: /o/
  • u, when short, is pronounced like the 'u' in 'pull': IPA: /ʊ/
  • u, when long, is pronounced like the 'oo' in 'moon': IPA: /uː/
  • y, which only occurs in words borrowed from Greek, is pronounced like the French 'u' in 'dur': IPA: /y/

Diphthongs

  • ae is pronounced like the 'y' in 'by': IPA: /aɪ/
  • au is pronounced like the 'ou' in 'noun': IPA: /aʊ/
  • oe is pronounced like the 'oy' in 'boy': IPA: /ɔɪ/

In the other vowel combinations each vowel keeps its own sound:

  • ei is pronounced as 'ayee': IPA: /e-i/
  • eu is pronounced as 'ayoo': IPA: /e-u/
  • ui is pronounced as 'ooee': IPA: /u-i/


Accent

Classical Latin is pronounced with a slight stress accent. If a word has two syllables, the accent is almost always on the first (as in 'regnum' ('REG-noom') , 'modus' ('MOD-oos', 'parens' ('PA-rens'), and 'hostis' ('HOST-iss')). If a word has more than two syllables, the accent is on the second syllable from the end if the syllable is long (as in 'Romani' ('rom-AN-ee'), 'regina' ('reg-EEN-a'), and 'paratus' ('par-AT-us'); if the syllable is short, the accent is on the third syllable from the end (as in 'loquitur' ('LO-kwit-oor'), 'dominus' ('DOM-in-oos') and 'populus' ('POP-ul-oos')).

You should pronounce Latin words and expressions in accordance with these rules unless they are terms which form part of the specialist vocabulary of, e.g., lawyers or philosophers - for the pronunciation of these terms see Pronunciation of 'Lawyers' Latin' - or they occur in a religious context - for the pronunciation of Latin in this context see Pronunciation of Ecclesiastical or Church Latin.

These rules also apply to quotations from Latin authors and to Latin proper names (e.g., the names of places and individuals in the world of ancient Rome). There are, however, some exceptions. For more information see Pronunciation of Latin proper names.